McEachran says DNA matching will continue to prove ‘extremely compelling’
BELLINGHAM — A jury on Friday determined Timothy Forrest Bass guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Mandy Stavik nearly 30 years ago.
The clerk of the court read the verdict of the 6-man, 6-woman jury to subdued emotion in the packed courtroom, and defendant Bass showed little reaction. Eventually there were sobs, hugs and looks of stunned silence amongst family members and acquaintances of both the victim and the defendant, who at the time of the 1989 crime lived about a mile apart in the rural South Fork Valley of Whatcom County.
Bass was also found guilty by the jury of first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping, secondary charges against him.
The clerk then polled each of the 12 jurors directly whether this verdict was their own decision as well as that of the whole jury, and each answered “yes.”
The entire proceedings under Superior Court Judge Robert E. Olsen took less than 15 minutes. Prior admittance into the courtroom, with many uniformed Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies present, took longer.
Olsen reiterated rules of the court in regard to photography and electronic devices. From the seated jury he received their paper form, looked it over and said it was in order. Olsen acknowledged that this was an emotional case for many, and asked for restraint as the outcome was read. He also thanked the jury — and three other alternates that were part of the entire trial — for their service.
David McEachran, after 44 years of heading the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, came out of recent retirement to complete this case. He said Friday he has been involved in “every step of the way” across the years with investigators.
McEachran said it felt “terrific” for the sake of justice for Stavik and her family to now get this verdict in the case.
He said the DNA 1-in-11 quadrillion match of Bass to the semen that was found on Stavik’s body turned out to be “extremely compelling.” The precision of DNA matching is only getting better, and it will continue to solve more cold cases, he predicted.
Even though use of DNA was just starting in criminal cases in 1989, the Whatcom people involved did a good job of using it and preserving evidence in this case.
“It was good science,” he insisted, countering a main claim of the Bass defense team that bad analysis and methodology was used by former county medical examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel.
Amanda T. Stavik was 18 years old and a Mount Baker High School graduate when she came home for Thanksgiving from Central Washington University. On Nov. 24, 1989, she went out for a run and never returned home. A massive search ensued. Three days later, her nude body was discovered three miles away in the Nooksack River South Fork, and the cause of death was determined to be drowning.
Jury deliberation went from hearing closing arguments all day Wednesday, May 22, to having a verdict Friday morning.
A date of sentencing of Bass is to be set by the court with the prosecution and defense.